Mechanics Mate to Commander

Now a subroc, or a nuclear depth bomb, that was something really
different and pretty scary.  I am not sure if I can confirm or deny
whether or not we carried them so I won’t but, I can say as a
submariner I was familiar with them.  There was no chance of it “going
off” unless you armed and fired it.  

The scary part was that if a submarine ever had to use one the
chance of the submarine that launched it surviving the explosion was
given at 50/50 at best.  It was kinda like a suicide weapon to be
considered if, (1) you were in a predicament you couldn’t get out of,
(2) the U.S. was at full-scale war and (3) the sub had the opportunity
to take out a large number of opposing ships.

It is speculated that a subroc could vaporize [surface vessels within]
two square miles of ocean.  The shock wave and tidal waves were
side-effects that could cause further damage.  I recall that once a
subroc was launched, the launching sub was to do a 180 degree turn,
hit flank speed and hope for the best.  They were never used, of


These were used by destroyers and cruisers to attack
submarines.  One can always tell from a photo whether a ship
carried the ASROC weapon system.  There is a distinctive
structure, prominently placed on deck with six to nine portals in a
honeycomb structure.   Each portal containied one missile.

So, both submarines and surface vessels were armed with these
small nuclear bombs.

The nuclear-armed ASROC was never used beyond one or two
tests in 1961-62.

On May 11, 1962, USS RAZORBACK participated in an ASROC
nuclear weapons test when a NDB was fired by the destroyer
Agerholmn at a target raft from a range of 2 nautical miles.

RAZORBACK was submerged at periscope depth 2 nautical miles
from the target raft. The ASROC weapon produced a powerful
underwater shock wave which visibly shook RAZORBACK and
her crew. The resulting data was used to formulate tactical
doctrine for ASROC, a weapon that remained in front-line service
for nearly 30 years.

Eventually the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty banning
underwater nuclear tests went into effect. The nuclear weapon
was never used in combat.


In August 1967, Jim was ordered to USS Orion (AS018) in Norfolk, VA.
and assigned as repair officer, the job he had wanted for years, He
served  there for 3 ½ years and then was transferred to Staff of the
Commander of Submarine, Atlantic Fleet in 1970.
During a launch attempt on July 7, 1948, a Loon Missile exploded
on deck.  When the smoke cleared, the Cusk had disappeared
leaving witnesses on nearby Navy ships thinking that the Cusk
had been sunk by the explosion.  Fortunately, the quick thinking
Captain Fred Clarke had submerged the Cusk immediately to put
out the fire and save the boat.
A pioneer in the missile field, Cusk was fitted with a missile hangar
and launching ramp just aft of her sail in 1947 and was the first
submarine to launch a guided missile from her own deck, a
forerunner of the ballistic missile submarines of the future.
This is how it is supposed to work.  The Loon Missile is derivative of the German V-1,
and its design was also incorporated  into the Air Force
Matador Missile, with which
my brother Joseph is quite familiar.  :-)  The Loon's  range was about 100 miles.
The film was released in December 1950.  On the right is the crew of the CUSK in
1953.  Jim is among the group, but I cannot identify him.  
Jim had wanted to stay in the Navy after the war, but demobilization
proceeded so quickly, he told me, that he couldn't find an "official" to
re-enlist him.   Now, Korea brought a new opportunity to find a niche for
himself and to pursue a career that both challenged and rewarded him.

By the time Jim joined the crew of the CUSK, it was already famous, both for
its near escapes in launching the Loon, as well as for its newly developed
technology that made the submarine into a floating platform for launching
missiles. A few months after Jim joined the CUSK, it was featured in a Glenn
Ford movie, "The Flying Missile".   For the next five years the CUSK served
as a mobile testing unit as the Navy developed its control and tracking
capabilities for the missile.  

Stationed at Mare Island, the CUSK also made occasional transits to San
Diego, and on one occasion a foray out to Hawaii.  But the challenges of
duty aboard it were ones of thought, application of skill, and development of
technology.  In this Jim excelled and during this period of service, he began
to see that a new, nuclear world could to play a part in submarine
construction, function and performance.

For Helen, Yvette, and Bernadette (b. Dec. 1949) Jim's assignment became
their challenge too.  For the first few months, they remained in Taft, on San
Emidio St., and Jim would hitchhike home from San Diego, but when the
Cusk went up to Mare Island , Helen and the girls moved there too and found
a haven in the infamous Quonset Huts which dotted the base.  Each Hut was
a half-shell of metal, without wood framing or insulation.  Divided into two
apartments, back to back, each apartment kept a family with at least two
children.  There was a shower and toilet, along with a living room/kitchen.  
By chance, their Hut, in Row K, was right next to the only  telephone booth
for the row and reserved for important calls.   Helen remembers that Jim
would call her frequently on his breaks; when it rained, they heard and
enjoyed every drop.  It was a happy time.
The reason: Korea.  

His assignment: USS Cusk, the first submarine in the Navy armed and ready
to launch guided missiles.  On board were a number of former Barb
crewmen, and it was a good duty assignment for the next five years.

Operating from advance bases around the world, the "boomers" became the
force-in-being that counter-balanced the Soviets' demonstrated nuclear
weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, if the SSBNs
represented the "tip of the spear," it was the submarine tenders that kept them
poised, and they were not yet ready.

USS Proteus had served more than a decade at New London, tending both the
older World War II boats still in service and their nuclear-powered counterparts
coming on line in increasing numbers. As such, she was still in good condition
and ready to sail.

She was a prime candidate for an "implant".   Proteus was quietly moved to
Charleston Naval Shipyard, cut in half, and fitted with a new 44-foot hull "plug,"
fabricated in place. This additional section contained special nuclear-material
storage facilities, handling, testing, and machining areas, and other necessities
for servicing both nuclear-powered attack and ballistic-missile submarines.

Other specialty shops and machinery were installed to maintain the fire control,
navigation, and launcher systems that first appeared on the new SSBNs. The
final element of the conversion was the installation of a huge X-Y crane,
capable of lifting more than 30 tons, and equipped with extension arms that
could swing out over a submarine to load equipment, supplies, and most
importantly - Polaris missiles.

Jim was now Machinery Officer aboard the PROTEUS, in command of 275
officers and men, and soon promoted to full Lieutenant and named the first
Quality Assurance Officer in the Navy.  

In December 1960, the Proteus proceeded from Charleston, S.C. to New
Longdon, Conn. where we accomplished an upkeep on the first FBM
[BOOMER] Submarine, the USS George Washington.

In March 1961, Proteus departed New London and proceeded to Holy Loch,
Scotland where we set up the advanced upkeep site for the FBM submarines in
the North Atlantic.

Her first "customer" was USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599).

The conversion of GEORGE WASHINGTON and PROTEUS put a nuclear
deterrent in place two years sooner than originally planned .

Jim's Comment: I served on Proteus as a Division Officer and then as the first
Quality Assurance Officer in the Navy.

Tim's Observations:

His other post-Navy career was as a defense contractor, for a short time
with a company called Value Engineering and then for Q.E. D. Systems
where he worked for the next 25 years.  While at QED, some of the
highlights I recall are:

He developed and perfected the technique of hydroblasting for flushing
out shipboard sanitation piping.  Sanitation systems on ships are flushed
with saltwater and as it turns out, when you mix saltwater and urine, it
reacts to form crystalline deposits inside the pipes.

Over time, these deposits build up and eventually block the flow. The
corrective measure was to replace the piping.  Hydroblasting involves
injecting high-pressure water into the pipe and literally blasting the
deposits off the walls of the pipe.  Faster, cheaper, better solution.

I don’t recall all of the leadership roles he had at QED but I know early on
he worked directly for one of the Vice-Presidents, Norm Chalmers, and
was considered a critical manager by the President, Bob Jones, and the
rest of the executive team.

I actually got to work under him for two years, although I can’t say it was
all rosy for one or the other.  I worked in the reproduction center making
copies of everything from one-sheet forms to entire technical manuals
and full-size drafting schematics.  This was in the early ‘80s before
computers (word processors had recently come out), AutoCad, and
PDFs.  We had to literally take tech manuals apart and copy them on what
was then high speed Xerox copiers.  My boss, Tony Harddock, was in
charge of Repo and the Typing Pool.  We had an actual typing pool of
women, about twenty, who sat in the room next to repo.  Tony answered
to Jim Lyons and Jim Lyons answered to Dad.

One of the low lights was the day I came to work after downing a number
of Greyhounds.  I worked nights then because I was going to Tidewater
Community College during the day so I used to come in at 2:00 and work
until 11:00 at night.  The normal day people left at 4:30 so I only saw them
during that 2-1/2 hour span.  A handful of people, mainly draftsmen,
worked part-time at night.  

I actually got more done by myself at night because I could work
uninterrupted and I often exceeded the workload of the three full-time day
people combined.  Anyhow, Dad was not there this particular day, thank
God, but I got called into his boss’s office, Norm Chalmers.  Norm sent
me home to sleep it off.

I went home (after making a big scene, not cool at all) and spent the rest
of the day in Mom and Dad’s pool.  I thought wow, I’m gonna catch hell
and I really let Dad down and embarrassed him.  All I recall him saying was
something to the effect of I understand you had a meeting with Norm…He
said he was disappointed and that was it.  That was actually enough
looking back.  I didn’t lose my job but I also didn’t do that again.

One of the highlights was when I came back to QED twenty years later in
2000.  This time I returned as Business Development Manager for C4ISR
which stands for Command, Control, Communications, Computers,
Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance Systems.  I didn’t work for Dad
then nor even in the same building or even the same city.  I worked in the
main Virginia Beach headquarters and Dad worked in the Chesapeake
Production office.  He was actually working part-time then and at the
twilight of his career.  

One of the guys who worked for Dad (in the 80’s) was Carl Brashear, the
famous black Navy Master Diver whom the movie “Men of Honor” is
about.  I remember Carl some.  He was a very knowledgeable, opinionated
guy, a lot like Dad.  Everyone I ever spoke with who worked for or with
Dad at QED both my first time through and my second, had nothing but
good things to say about him.  

Many would say that it wasn’t always easy working for him but he was fair
and he was a perfectionist.  I saw the fruits of a lot of that my second time
through QED when many of the leaders there were either disciples of Dad
or people whom he influenced either directly or indirectly.  
Q.E.D. Systems Inc. Wins $13,868,023 Contract for Ship Alteration
Q.E.D. Systems Inc., Virginia Beach, Va., is being awarded an
indefinite delivery indefinite quantity cost plus fixed fee with
provisions for firm fixed pricing contract in the amount of
$13,868,023 for ship alteration installation and marine/mechanical
engineering design services.

This contract contains a base period with four one-year option
periods, which if exercised, bring the total value of the contract to
$68,041,545. Work will be performed at Virginia Beach, Va., and work
is expected to be completed by Jan. 2010. Contract funds will not
expire before the end of the current fiscal year.

This contract was awarded through full and open competition, with
three offers received. The Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Norfolk
is the contracting activity.


Oceaneering International Inc., East Coast Repair & Fabrication Inc.,
Técnico Corporation, Q.E.D. Systems Inc. Wins $22,500,000 Contract
Oceaneering International Inc. East Coast Repair & Fabrication Inc.,
in joint venture with Técnico Corporation, Norfolk, VA and Q.E.D.
Systems Inc., Virginia Beach, VA, are each being awarded a
$22,500,000 time-and-material, IDIQ multiple award contract for
furnishing the necessary management, technical services, labor,
material, support services, and equipment to provide production
support and maintenance for the accomplishment of repairs and
maintenance onboard U.S. Navy and other military type vessels,
including submarines in support of Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The
Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center, U.S. Navy, Portsmouth,
VA, is the contracting activity.
During his five years aboard the CUSK, Jim could see that the world of
weaponry was changing quickly.  Nuclear power had begun to drive research
and the Navy was particularly interested in how it might drive submarines.  

The problem with a submarine prior to USS NAUTILUS and the "Rickover
Era"  was that it could not stay submerged for a long period of time.  
Powered by diesel motors, it could run on the surface and be vulnerable to
air and naval attack, or it could run underwater, for a few hours at a time,
and get nowhere near an enemy.  

Not only did the batteries driving the propulsion system become exhausted
quickly, but air quality, humidity and close confinement always undermined
morale to some degree and sometimes just led to mistakes.  

What a submarine needed was more space, longer submersible capacity, and
more powerful propulsion while under water.  If, as a bonus, someone could
create a smoother launching platform to attack land based targets and a way
to navigate without surfacing frequently, all that the "sub" had promised for
decades might be realized.

The installation of rocket launchers aboard the CUSK was an advancement
over the makeshift platforms that Fluckey had worked with on the BARB but
still, getting a submarine in a position to launch rockets was a "slow motion"

The nuclear age changed all of that.


After the Korean Conflict, the United States found itself in a global
competition with the Soviet Union, a confrontation which we came to call the
Cold War, but one which always held the promise/threat of incineration of the
entire planet.   

It was one thing to wring one's hands as the Soviet's took full control of
Hungary and eastern Europe.  It was embarrassing that the USSR was more
advanced in rocketry than was the United States.  It was an alarm bell,
however,  when "Sputnik" ascended from Russia into earth orbit in October
of 1957.  A series of such launches, carrying dogs, and eventually a human
being into successful orbit of the earth proved that Soviet missile power had
been harnessed in a way that the United States had not been able to match.

President Eisenhower may have later railed about the threat of the
"military-industrial complex" but now, in his second term in office, he
challenged the United States military branches (and American industry) to
respond to the Soviet threat.

The Army had nothing to offer; it could put boots on the ground but not
dogs into space. The Air Force B-36 bomber was too slow, too late and too
cumbersome to respond to a missile launch.  However, since 1949, Hyman
Rickover, Director of the Naval Reactors Branch, had been developing ideas
and technology to create a nuclear-powered submarine, and in 1954, the
Navy  launched the USS NAUTILUS, the world's first nuclear powered
submarine.   It was truly an undersea weapon.

Jim could not have failed to recognize that with the success of the
NAUTILUS, the nature of the Navy that he knew was going to change, and he
changed with it.   He applied for and was accepted into the U.S. Navy Nuclear
Power Training Unit in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  There he learned the intricacies of
the S1W Nuclear Propulsion Plant, which was essentially a controlled nuclear

It was this prototype which was installed in modified form within the USS
NAUTILUS.  The reactor could heat water, create steam and drive the
engines; it could power up air cleansing circulations; it could provide all of
the comforts of home and it could do so in part by generating such power
that a submarine could be more of a natural space in which to work, rather
than a "small maze" to negotiate.  Instead of "hot bunking", crews could
enjoy their own beds, hot meals, and elbow space all the time, day or night.   

When Jim graduated, at the top of his class, from this program, he held three
different licenses of qualification, all of them signed by Vice-Admiral Hyman
Rickover.  He was the first enlisted man to qualify as Chief Operator of the
Nuclear Plant (aboard ship). Subsequently, he was promoted first to
Chief Engineman and then to Warrant Machinist.

After a 15 month stint as Transportation Officer at the Great Lakes Naval
Training Center, Jim took assignment to the submarine tender, USS Fulton.  
It was the first step in a "new" professional career which would carry him to
the rank as Commander and keep him intimately involved in the servicing,
support and secret work of the nuclear submarine.  
Submarine tenders have facilities on board to provide just about every
repair, replacement, service, or supply a submarine might need.  They are
essentially complete factories - with pattern shops, foundries, and machine
shops with precision lathes, surface mills, presses, and welding machines.

Even if a replacement part isn't stocked or otherwise available on a tender -
it can often be fabricated in hours. The sheet-metal shop can make
partitions, ductwork, and piping. Electrical workers can run wiring, re-wind
motors, and repair other electrical equipment, as well as service or replace
the massive primary batteries.

Electronics shops are fully qualified to deal with radio, radar, sonar,
navigation aids, and fire control equipment. There are weapons specialists
for torpedoes, missiles, and launching systems, plus optical technicians to
attend to the boat's periscopes.  Complete medical and dental facilities are
provided to see to the crews' health and well being - and, of course, a
warehouse of supplies - from toilet paper to torpedoes - ensures that the
crew will need nothing on its next patrol.

Tenders are manned - particularly at senior levels - with very experienced
personnel, and their cumulative expertise is invaluable to the boats that
come alongside for repair and refit services.

however, they need to be staffed by highly trained personnel and led by men
who were experts in what they knew and directed.  

It is a bit of a historic anomaly to me, but the very first submarine offered for
use by an American was one built by Robert Fulton, the same guy who built
the steamship.  Fulton demonstrated it for Napoleon Bonaparte in hopes the
French might buy it.  He named it the
Nautilus.  That was in 1805.  

Nautilus was active during the Battle of Midway in WW II.

Now, shortly after Jim arrived on the FULTON, (March 1958), the tender was
assigned three nuclear submarines to care for, and in August, became the
first ship to care for the USS NAUTILUS following its underwater transit
beneath the North Pole.

Jim's statement:
The main reason for my assignment (March 1958) was to set the Fulton up to
repair nuclear powered submarines, a task I was successful in
accomplishing, and we performed the first upkeep and Nuclear Repair on the
first Nuclear Submarine “USS NAUTILUS” (SSN-571).

NAUTILUS  departed from Pearl Harbor under the command of Captain W. R.
, transited through the Bering Sea, maneuvered under the North Ice
Cap and surfaced after 96 hours in the Greenland Sea.  It then sailed on to
England, and returned in August to New York City and a highly publicized
arrival.  FULTON had sailed down from New London and was there to "tend"

The  NAUTILUS demonstrated that a nuclear powered (steam generation
through radioactivity) submarine could be anywhere in the world, without
anyone seeing it on the surface, or knowing where it was under the sea.  The
new Chief of Naval Operations, Arleigh Burke, decided that such a boat
would make an ideal launching platform for a weapons system that could
counter the Soviet missile threat.   

Any enemy would be especially leery of trying a "first launch" when it had no
knowledge of where the counter-strike vehicles were located or when they
might be launched.  A submarine like the NAUTILUS, properly set up with
guided missiles, could launch from underwater and that would change the
"first strike-counterstrike"  power balance significantly.

The first missile designed to fulfill this function was the Polaris, but it had a
range of only 1000-2500 miles in its various versions, so nuclear submarines
had to operate relatively close to their targets.

To to keep transit time and other logistics to a minimum, the Navy asked for
and Congress approved the production of a new class of submarine
tender.     They were to be operational in the mid 1960s.  

But the Soviets kept launching "sputniks" and the ability of its missiles to hit
targets all over the world, left the United States wondering how it could
respond effectively...and quickly.

Thus the birth of the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine. To get this weapon  
operational as soon as possible,  t
he Navy decided to take some submarines
that were well along in construction, cut them in half - and then add the
needed components to make them into SSBNs.

That would give the U.S. a nuclear deterrent immediately,  and so USS
Scorpion - SSN 598 was converted to USS GEORGE WASHINGTON
and in
December 1959, the United States had its first "boomer".
Robert Fulton's submarine,
Active in  the Battle of Midway
Vice-Admiral Hyman Rickover's creation: the first nuclear submarine,
USS Nautilus.
NAUTILUS was the first vessel to transit under water from Pearl Harbor
to Greenland Sea via the North Pole.
The FBM's sole purpose in life is to launch a retaliation against an aggressor.   Each
missile can deliver ten (count 'em in picture on right)  war heads.  There are two
FBM being launched in this test.  In the middle picture you can see one in the
exhaust trail of the other.
In the
re-entry trails above on the right there would be several mega-tons of
destruction at the bottom of each of those pretty "fireworks trails".  Each trail is
heading down...toward its earth target.
Jim's Remarks:
In December 1962, it was time to move again.  This time we traveled from
Scotland to San Diego where I served as the Assistant Repair Officer of USS
Nereus (AS-17).  
My Remarks: This tender provided support for one of the most fearsome
naval weapons yet to surface from the laboratories of submarine
technology: the SUBROC
JIMS ASSIGNMENT: July 1965-July 1967
Staff of Admiral Fluckey, COMSUBPAC Pearl Harbor

Max Duncan (above right) was also aboard the
BARB and was the one who narrated the 8mm film
shown earlier in these pages.  
Tim had a bit of a laugh at Duncan's brown shoes.  
Only naval airmen wore brown; submariners always
wore black.

Jim did quite well here and advanced in rank once
again, being promoted to Lt. Commander in 1966.  
Beginning in October 1969, and for the rest of his time in service, Jim
served in administrative positions, but from Helen's perspective, he did a
lot of traveling on behalf of the Navy, and she found various papers  
which indicated that he had both Top Secret clearances and was probably
used extensively as a courier.  He frequently carried pouches which were
padlocked to his wrist, but of his work or its purpose he said nothing.

She told him once that she believed that she knew what all of his traveling
was about and what his duties were and then asked him if that were true?  
He gave her "a look" which said yes, but spoke to her and said he couldn't
say or he would have to kill her.  She knew then what his duties were

It was Helen's view that he had been doing this for many years, and his
duties may have increased when Fluckey was appointed head of Naval
Intelligence.  In any case, these things are not known, because they are
not supposed to be known.  Suffice to say that Jim concluded his naval
career as a full commander and retired with the highest degree of respect
and appreciation from his naval peers.   
Jim retired from the Navy on May 31, 1974, Helen's birthday.  Now for the
first time since their marriage, he was at home and available at all times.  
He took to rising early in the morning, which he liked, and would carefully
avoid awakening Helen.  Then, he would sneak downstairs, feed the kids
and assign them work: Jim jr., Tim and Suzette.  

When the vacuum cleaner would awaken Helen, she would find Jim doing
housework.  This went on for three or four months, and then one day,
Helen sat Jim down and said to him:

"This isn't your ship and this isn't your crew; this is my ship and this is my
crew.  Go find yourself a job."  

He did.
Jim's Comments about his post-retirement from the Navy.

Then, after 4 months of this (RETIREMENT), I was getting on Helen’s
nerves so at her request I went out and got a job.

I went to work for QED Systems Inc. in January of 1975 and have worked
for them in various positions as a Project Engineer.  In December of 1990,
QED opened a Shop Facility, and I set up the shops up in a 6600 square
feet warehouse.  We have since expanded into another 6600 square feet
and are presently trying to get more space.   We have a machine shop,
sheet metal shop, electric shop and electronics shop.

I have served in various positions in the organization.  We started with 4
people and now employ over 50.  I am presently the Quality Assurance
Manager, the Facilities Manager the Logistics Manager and Planner
Estimator and take care of whatever else needs to be done.  I should have
retired when I turned 65 three years ago, but as long as I feel good and
enjoy my work I will keep at it.

Q.E.D. Systems, Inc., an engineering company, provides
engineering, installation, training, logistic, and material services to
federal and state agencies, and commercial enterprises. The
company offers IT, marine engineering, and naval architecture;
design; alteration development; installation engineering;
maintenance engineering; equipment/system testing; and technical
investigations, surveys, and analyses services. It also provides
engineering operational procedures; hardware installation and
systems documentation; computer aided design work; specification
preparation; and advance and production availability/overhaul
planning services. In addition, the company offers material
TIM COMMENTS: This photo was taken when Dad was on the USS Proteus (AS-19) on
February 2, 1961.  Dad must have been Duty Officer.  The guy coming aboard is Air Chief
Marshal Sir Thomas G. Pike, Chief of Air Staff, Royal Air Force.  Notice Dad’s salute is open-
palmed in the style of the Brits as opposed to the way we salute in the U.S. with the palm  
(like the Brit guy behind the Air Marshall, ironically rendering the U.S. salute).  Pike went on
to become Deputy Supreme Commander Allied Powers Europe until he retired in 1967.

to access a link on the development of FMBs and the eventual recall of
all tenders from abroad.  The "Boomers" are now serviced on the two
coasts of the U.S.  Very nice comparison of different Ballistic Missile
Launch capabilities of the gradually improved platforms of most recent
generation of submarines.